YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Comarco to Manage L.A. County Airports : Contract: In a privatization move, the Board of Supervisors awarded the Anaheim-based firm the deal, which covers five general aviation facilities and is expected to be worth $8 million a year.

January 23, 1991|From Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — Comarco, an Anaheim-based defense engineering services contractor, was awarded a contract by the Board of Supervisors here Tuesday to manage five general aviation airports in Los Angeles County.

The contract could be worth $8 million a year, or as much as $160 million over its 20-year life.

The board approved the contract by a 3-2 margin, despite objections from some pilots and unions. The supervisors have been moving toward private operation of county services.

The five county airports in Lancaster, Pacoima, La Verne, El Monte and Compton have been managed by the county for more than 20 years.

Evelyn M. Evans, spokeswoman for Comarco, said the contract is the biggest non-defense contract the company has won in its management services area.

"We feel this has strategic importance for us because it is a part of our long-term plan to expand our management services," she said. "Defense will remain our nuts and bolts, but we want to increase the management services."

In addition to the five airports on the contract awarded on Tuesday, the company manages National Airport in Washington. Under the contract, the company makes capital improvements, employs airport staff and fuels aircraft. Several private pilots told the board they fear airport fees would increase and services would decline as the company looks for a way to pay the county the minimum $2.8 million a year guaranteed in the contract.

Tom Tidemanson, director of the Department of Public Works, said the county estimates it makes about $2.2 million annually from the airports.

Richard Loomis, vice president of Comarco, said the company plans to trim operating costs at the airport, including cutting the airports 55-member staff by as many as 10 positions.

Loomis said most airport fee increases--such as hangar rentals--would have to be approved by the supervisors.

Supervisor Pete Schabarum, the leading proponent of leasing the airports, predicted Comarco would improve services and generate a 10% to 15% increase in revenue through aggressive marketing.

But Supervisor Ed Edelman, who voted against the contract, wondered why the county should cede potential revenue to a private company. He said the airports have been hamstrung in their marketing efforts because the board has left the position of airport division chief unfilled for three years.

Ramon Rubalcava, research director for Local 660 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents many of the airport employees, noted Comarco does not have any experience in managing airports.

Although all airport employees--some with as much as 25 years of service--will lose their county jobs, the contract requires Comarco to offer a position, at current salary, to anyone who has worked at one of the airports for at least three months.

Union representatives said those provisions are inadequate to make up for the loss of union representation, benefits and future raises.

In addition, the board voted 5-0 to approve a $100,000 contract giving Comarco a right of first refusal to develop certain parcels of land at Brackett Field in La Verne and Gen. William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster.

Loomis said Comarco is contemplating establishing an aviation school and golf course at the Lancaster airport and a hotel at the La Verne airport.

Los Angeles Times Articles